The UW System asked the state in January to restore stricken mission statement language that ultimately found its way into Gov. Scott Walker’s official budget proposal a few days later anyway, Media Milwaukee has learned through an open records request.
A UW System representative wrote a state budget analyst Jan. 29 to contest revisions to the UW mission statement in the state budget, according to a document obtained by Media Milwaukee via the request.
“The language referencing meeting the state’s workforce needs is acceptable. However, we strongly urge that stricken language is unique to depicting the character, mission, and vision of the UW System,” wrote John Yingling, in an e-mail to Nathan Schwanz obtained by Media Milwaukee Thursday through an open records request.
According to his LinkedIn page, Schwanz is an executive policy and budget analyst for the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Executive Budget and Finance. He was previously an outreach director for Republican Congressman Sean Duffy. Yingling is the owner of a management consulting company in Milwaukee. He was co-chair of the Search and Screen Committee for the university relations job ultimately obtained by close Walker confidant Jim Villa. A UW System newsletter in December 2013 said Yingling had served as an “external relations consultant” for the UW System.
The Yingling email emerged as Gov. Scott Walker found himself in a swirl of controversy over revisions to the UW Mission statement that critics said deleted the notion of the Wisconsin Idea. According to a UW-Madison web page devoted to the Wisconsin Idea, it “is the principle that the university should improve people’s lives beyond the classroom. It spans UW-Madison’s teaching, research, outreach and public service.” The Idea extends to all UW campuses.
The revisions received national and state media attention Wednesday, prompting the governor to say the changes were due to a drafting error. On Thursday, Walker issued a press statement.
The exclusion of the Wisconsin Idea in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal was because of a confusion in language among his staff, the budget office, and the UW staff, Walker explained in the press release.
The main focus of the budget was to provide the “maximum amount of flexibility under the new authority,” said Walker. That’s a reference to a public authority that Walker wants created to run the UW System.
“My office told the budget staff to keep it simple,” Walker said. “They took that to mean that we only wanted workforce readiness language in the mission when we really wanted the language added to the existing mission statement.”
You can read the Walker statement in full here. “Clearly, changing the Wisconsin Idea serves no purpose. That is why I made it clear on Wednesday that we would not change it in the budget. It is not a change of heart. It was a simple miscommunication during the natural back and forth of this process,” the statement continued.
In the email, Yingling was writing to Schwanz, Yingling urged Schwanz to consider the nature of the stricken language. “The attachment better details our concerns,” he wrote Schwanz.
The UW System blacked out some portions of the Yingling email. The non-redacted portions read,
“Seventh, in LRB-0971/P3 (Section 292, lines 18-13), we strongly urge that stricken language is unique to depicting the character, mission, and vision of the UW System. Similarly, in LRB-0971/P3 (Section 293), the language referencing meeting the state’s workforce needs is acceptable. However, we strongly urge that stricken language is unique to depicting the character, mission, and vision of the UW System.”
In a letter to another reporter that UW System Deputy General Counsel Jennifer Lattis released to Media Milwaukee, Lattis wrote, “I understand that you spoke with Jim Villa and he explained to you that we did ask the Administration to retain the current statutory language.” That means the UW is saying it asked state Administration to not revise the UW mission statement.
Alex Hummel, the UW-System associate vice president for communications, said, “We are pleased the Wisconsin Idea will remain intact in statutory language. Our focus remains on the impact of the Governor’s proposed budget cut and public authority structure for UW System and its institutions.”
Earlier in the day, Chancellor Mark Mone assured the faculty, staff, and students that the Wisconsin Idea must remain a part of the public higher education in the UW-System in a campus-wide email.
“Our campus is fully dedicated to fulfilling the pledge of the Wisconsin Idea,” said Mone. “And I am wholeheartedly committed to the ideals upon which our university was founded.”
A website for information on the 2015-17 Executive Budget, along with a “UWM Stories” section where visitors can share how UWM has impacted their lives has also been created.